Canadian Cancer Society brings together NHL stars past and present

Who: The Canadian Cancer Society, with Juliet for strategy and creative, Saints Editorial for editing, Darling VFX for effects, Berkeley for audio, Hearts & Science for media.

What: Two new campaigns: “Same Team” is supporting Hockey Fights Cancer, the annual fundraising initiative launched by the NHL and NHL Players’ Association that the Canadian Cancer Society has been a partner on since 2017; while “Cancer Never Takes a Holiday” is a holiday-specific fundraising effort.

When & Where: The “Same Team” spot supporting Hockey Fights Cancer launched this week, and runs through the end of the month on TV and online, amplified through the NHL and NHLPA’s social channels. The ad also lends itself to earned media, with several sports media outlets having already contacted the Canadian Cancer Society to enquire about it. The second ad debuts in mid-November, and runs through the end of the year on TV.

Why (“Same Team”): The Canadian Cancer Society began working with the NHL and NHLPA on the Hockey Fights Cancer program in 2017, with a goal of engaging hockey fans in order to change the future of cancer in Canada, said executive vice-president of marketing and communications, Pamela Mollica.

Nearly half of Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetime, and the hockey world is not immune. The past two years alone has seen the death of prominent Hall of Fame players including Guy Lafleur, Dale Hawerchuk and Mike Bossy.

“We wanted to start a conversation directly with hockey-loving Canadians, because they’ve all been affected by cancer in one way or another,” said Mollica. “At the end of the day, regardless of what jersey we wear or who our favourite team is, we all need to come together to provide hope for people who are living with or moving past cancer.

“Obviously the NHL’s reach in Canada is second to none, and this is meant to be an awareness and engagement campaign that complements the Hockey Fights Cancer messaging that’s in market,” she added. “I don’t think there’s been an ad quite like this one.”

How (“Same Team”): The spot splices together contemporary and archival NHL footage to show players from rival teams and different eras all playing together on one team. There are shots of the players skating alongside each other, and talking to each other on the bench.

Many of the players featured in the ad have faced—and in some cases, lost—their own personal battle with cancer. One particularly poignant shot shows Lafleur, Hawerchuk and Bossy sitting next to each other on the bench. It also features Eddie Olczyk, Mario Lemieux Saku Koivu and Phil Kessel, all of whom successfully battled cancer (the latter three even resuming their career after treatment).

“The intent was to speak to the widest possible group of hockey-loving Canadians,” said Mollica. “Having some great hockey heroes from all different eras on screen allows us to speak to fans young and old, as well as fans of the league’s Canadian and non-Canadian teams.”

Why: (“Never Takes a Holiday”): With a goal of nearly $10 million, the annual holiday campaign represents one of the Canadian Cancer Society’s largest fundraising efforts of the year. With so many ads in market at this time of year, the organization wanted to create an emotional ad that could cut through and remind people that even at one of the happiest times of the year, many families are grappling with cancer.

“This time of year is a festive time for a lot of people, but for people who’ve been diagnosed or impacted by cancer, it can be a really tough time,” said Mollica. Some people may have been diagnosed around this time, while others might be beginning or wrapping up treatment, caring for a loved one, or even mourning someone they’ve lost.

How (“Never Takes a Holiday”):The dialogue-free holiday spot opens on an idyllic holiday scene, with shoppers making their way through a festive street lit up for the holidays. The sound of sleigh bells ringing can be faintly heard.

The camera moves up to rest on the face of a woman watching from her window, and viewers see she’s wearing a headscarf to cover the hair-loss resulting from chemotherapy. Her husband and daughter are sitting with her on the couch, and she smiles wanly at her husband, reaching for his hand as the super “Cancer never takes a holiday,” appears on screen, followed by “…Neither can we,” before urging people to donate at

This is one of the first times the Canadian Cancer Society has used scripted advertising for its holiday campaign, with previous efforts campaigns relying primarily on testimonial videos, said Mollica. This year’s campaign does feature two testimonials featuring people whose lives have been impacted by cancer—one who started treatment on Dec. 24, and another who learned that her cancer had returned just as the holiday season arrived.


Chris Powell